The Controversy over Dungeons and Dragons

the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master guide with a demon on the cover
the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master guide with a demon on the cover | Source


throughout the years the game of Dungeons and Dragons have been blamed for everything from suicide to occult activities. For the most part this criticism has come from the ultra-religious who condemn Dungeons and Dragons for its use of magic and portrayal of demons. Much like the video game industry however there have been times when the media will point the blame at Dungeons and Dragons. Murders as well as Suicide attempts have been blamed on the Dungeons and Dragons game over the years by the media. Most of these allegations came during the early days of Dungeons and Dragons and the 1980s. Today D&D has become much more accepted in the world of popular culture then every before.

the cover of a BADD booklet.
the cover of a BADD booklet. | Source

The early years

When Dungeons and Dragons first released it was filled with references to the occult as well as devils and demons. The first releases also included sexually suggestive or exlicit art work. These things mostly went unnoticed by the general public until Dungeons and Dragons started to gain in popularity in the late '70s early '80s. The first real back lash to Dungeons and Dragons started in 1979 with the dissapearence of James Dallas Egbert III. James had attempted suicide in the utility tunnels under Michigan State University. When his attempt failed he hid out at a friends house while a search for him began. A private investigator was hired to find James and he believed that James had gotten lost in the tunnels during a live action version of Dungeons and Dragons. The press ran with this story and the stage was set for the blame to to be placed on Dungeons and Dragons. Another example of this is Patricia Pulling who formed the advocacy group called Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons, or BADD. Patricia's son had committed suicide and it was found that he was an avid player of Dungeons and Dragons. Patricia also filed suit against TSR, the company that published and created Dungeons and Dragons. This lawsuit was soon thrown out and BADD never really gain ground and pretty much died when its founder did in 1997. This first action against TSR would set the precedent however for much backlash from not just the religious communities but also from uninformed parents over the years.

a promo for the Tom Hanks film Mazes and Monsters.
a promo for the Tom Hanks film Mazes and Monsters. | Source

Books and Movies

When the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III hit the media it only added fuel to the fire that was smoldering under the feet of Dungeons and Dragons. In 1981 Ron Jaffe published the book Mazes and Monsters. While this book was supposed to be fiction it was very obvious that Jaffe was referring to the case of Egbert. This novel gave the perception that players of Dungeons and Dragons would get lost in the fantasy of the game and begin to believe that they in fact were their characters. In the era in which the book was published few new what a role playing game session really involved and Mazes and Monsters became the go to for people advocating the evils of Dungeons and Dragons. In 1992 Jaffe's book was turned into a made-for-TV movie staring Tom Hanks that only helped to reinforce the apprehension towards the hobby. The Canadian film Skullduggery released in 1983 depicted Dungeons and Dragons as a tool used by the devil to corrupt children. William Dear, the private investigator hired to find Egbert released a book titled The Dungeon Master in 1984 that revealed the truth behind the disappearance. While this helped take some of the pressure off of Dungeons and Dragons it was a case of to little to late as the damage had already been done three years prior. A 1988 murder also led two true crime authors to release books focusing on the influence role playing and Dungeons and Dragons played in the life of the killer. Both of these books where later made into TV movies and once again ignited the fire of hatred towards the gaming community. In recent times there has been far less media slander aimed at the world or role playing games. These same people who brought the Dungeons and Dragons community under fire in the 1980s have now moved on to the video game world. Video games are suffering the same ill-informed knee-jerk reactions and blame that plagued the world of table top games not so many years ago.

Cover of the Book of Vile Darkness.
Cover of the Book of Vile Darkness. | Source

Religious Groups and the Occult

With it's focus on sword and sorcery fantasy Dungeons and Dragons has been under fire from Religious groups almost since its creation. Over the years the game of Dungeons and Dragons has been accused of everything from teaching witchcraft to being a secret tool used by Satan to convert Christians to his cause. Some of these religious groups have sought to have Dungeons and Dragons banned by the government stating that players are members of a secret cult. There have also been accusations of Dungeons and Dragons being used to preform satanic and occult rituals involving sexual and physical abuse. These reports and allegations from the religious community in fact caused TSR to remove all references of Demons and Devils, as well as certain artwork from the second edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. These where latter returned to the game during the 3rd and 4th editions via source books, although the art has remained toned downed compared to some of the early artwork. Most of these source books now carry a warning stating that they are for mature audiences only. There have also been accusations leveled at those who play the Dungeon Master. These allegations claim the Dungeon Masters require their players to look at them as a god and not a mortal being. While the controversy over Dungeons and Dragons has died down in recent years from the mainstream media, the fundamentalist Christian groups still advocate against the hobby. It should be noted that most of the organizations that are opposed to the playing of D&D and also opposed to other forms of fantasy entertainment such as Harry Potter or Pokemon.

an internet meme created as a parody of Dark Dungeons
an internet meme created as a parody of Dark Dungeons | Source

Jack Chick

One of the most famous advocates to speak out against the evils of Dungeons and Dragons is a man named Jack Chick. Mr. Chick runs a company called Chick publications and published short comics called tracts. While his company publishes comics on many things such as the evils of abortion and homosexuality one of his most famous tract was one entitled Dark Dungeons. Dark Dungeons was the story of a girl who gets sucked into the evils of role playing. Over the course of the story she is asked to become her character and preform acts of satanism. While this is completely over the top and the story is ridiculous to anyone who has actually played the game Mr. Chick has a legion of followers. Dark Dungeons has become some what of a joke on the internet and there are numerous sites where you can find and read the entire tract, if for nothing more then entertainment.

Modern Times

Modern times have seen most opposition towards table top role playing games diminish. There are still fundamentalist groups that are heavily opposed to the games but the rise in popularity in video games has given the advocates a new target. Dungeons and Dragons is still played around the world today and while the amount of opposition has decreased there will always be those groups that will fear what they do not understand.

Further Reading

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Comments 4 comments

LennyP profile image

LennyP 3 years ago from Iowa

It seemed like the 1980s was when the religious nut jobs were fixated on the dangers of Satanic cults. The 1980s was also when Dungeon & Dragons saw it's rise into the mainstream. For whatever agenda they had, this made them a perfect target. I am not sure why they were convinced Satanists were everywhere but they have since found new issues to harp on.

Rabidwombat profile image

Rabidwombat 3 years ago Author

Lenny, you are right most of controversy with D&D came out of the 1980s. Of course just like the video game, music, and book industry anything that is gaining popularity and does not conform to the norm is an easy target for people to blame all of societies problems on. Rather then taking a real look at the issues and what makes these people do they things they do (such as murder) it is so much easier to just "blame the game" so to speak. To some extent this thinking shows that while we have come far as a civilization, "the devil made me do it" is still a rather acceptable answer.

Daniel C. 2 years ago

Just as an asside, the pic of the BADD cover is from here:

It includes the only complete scan that I know of of this pamphlet

Rabidwombat profile image

Rabidwombat 2 years ago Author

Thank you for that. I will be sure to update the source.

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